University of Vermont

Physical Plant Department

Magic Salt project

Using "Magic" to Reduce Salt Use on Campus Roadways

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In the winter of 2007, the Grounds crew implemented the use of a product to mix with salt for use as a deicer on campus roads and sidewalks. When mixed with the salt, the liquid Magic Salt product reduces the corrosiveness of salt and makes the salt able to work at much lower temperatures. Whereas rock salt works to 18 degrees, the Magic Salt works in temperatures as low as 30-35 degrees below zero. The product was applied using existing equipment owned by the Grounds depatment: traditional dump trucks with a salter/spreader attachment.

When the liquid is added to rock salt, it discolors it brown. Don't worry! Our trucks are not leaking oil...it is simply the color resulting from the Liquid Magic. It is made from a patented blend of magnesium chloride and condensed distiller solubles--which is a by-product of the distilling industry. (That's right, it's a waste product from breweries). It is non-toxic, bio-degradable and has a corrosion index lower than distilled water. It is non-corrosive, safe for concrete, environmentally friendly and does not damage turf the way that salt does. Even the Boston Globe wrote about it

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The additional cost of the liquid is about $24 per ton of salt applied, but this cost was offset by reducing the total amount of salt. Grounds purchases the Liquid Magic Minus Zero in bulk form, and stores it on site in two 3,000-gallon poly tanks located at the salt storage area at Centennial Field. The Liquid Magic product is then mixed with the rock salt before it is loaded into the dump truck. The department has also eliminated the use of sand everywhere on campus except for gravel parking lots and roadways. This has been a tremendous benefit to the environment...as we know sand is contaminated, clogs up the waterways, increases phosphorous levels and is a huge expense to sweep up from roadways and haul to the landfill each spring.

Magic can also be used as an anti-icing agent and applied in liquid form prior to a storm event. However, to do this, Grounds would have to modify its entire fleet of existing equipment. There is also specific criteria to follow regarding temperature and other weather conditions so the process becomes more technical and scientific. Most people using the product have started first with it as a deicer (adding it to salt). The Grounds crew plans to become familiar with using the granular form, and at the same time begin to experiment with liquid applications. They are also purchasing a 500-gallon tank to transfer the liquid from bulk storage to the salt. Other new tools include a spray bar so the tank can be mounted onto a pickup and used to spray certain areas of campus. In time, Grounds hopes to use the magic "liquid" on a regular basis and therefore reduce the use of salt on campus to an absolute minimum.


Last modified April 11 2014 04:40 PM